Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Homecoming Memories

by Frank Boles

Saturday, between the parade and the football game, Megan Moreno, the Libraries Director of Development and Outreach, and I sat in the hallway of the Park Library Building collecting memories of alumni on campus celebrating Homecoming. The memories were many, and often meaningful. It’s hard to match “met my husband” for world-changing significance, but best friends, the Medallion hunt, the marching band, and mud sliding during a thunderstorm (apparently on cafeteria trays) all received an honorable mention.

However, the most unexpected story of the day came from a couple who as students had worked at the Biological Station on Beaver Island. I expected a story about the idyllic island life but what they shared was a seagoing tale about 8-10 foot waves and a boatload of very seasick students, most of who arrived on the island minus their breakfast, but not in the mood for lunch. You never know what the next story will be.

If you have stories or photographs to share from your days as a student at CMU, we’d love to hear from you.Send us an e-mail at or visit the CMU Libraries' facebook page.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Betsy Hearne Presentation on October 10

by Frank Boles

Professor Elizabeth “Betsy” Hearne spoke at the Library on October 10 presenting a speech entitled, “Fooling Around With Stories: Children’s Books, Oral Lore, and the Playful Imagination.” It was indeed a wonderful evening of fooling around with the auditorium filled with listeners enthralled by Professor Hearn’s mix of entertaining storytelling, deep insight into children’s books, and profound sense of fun.

For one student in particular, it was also a wonderful learning moment. As part of her presentation, Professor Hearne talked about the large number of children’s stories that include an element of risk. Whether chased by witches or wolves, abused by evil step-mothers or abandoned by overburdened caretakers, terrible things often happen to children in stories. These terrible occurrences, however, are important in that the stories give children a safe place to work through their own fears. Learning how to deal with fears and difficult situations is part of a child’s “work,” and stories with simply awful occurrences in them help children undertake that process in a way that might be impossible in the real world.

At the reception following the presentation, Professor Hearne was engaged in discussion by a graduate student from Indonesia. The discussion was long and intense. Driving Professor Hearne back to her hotel, I asked about it. The lecture had given a student a new way to understand the importance of children’s stories. Children’s tales in Indonesia rarely include the kind of gruesome occurrences routinely found in Western stories. Indonesian stories, reported the graduate student, are happy tales intended to make children feel safe, not to cause them potential worry. Professor Hearne’s presentation opened to this student an entirely new way of thinking about children’s stories; something the student enthusiastically looked forward to taking back with her to Indonesia after completing her studies in the United States.

Part of the Library’s mission is to enlighten and inform. Based on the conservation between Professor Hearne and the graduate student, I think we did our job particularly well on the 10th. I am deeply grateful to Eunice Burgess, who made this presentation possible through a generous gift that created the David M. and Eunice Sutherland Burgess endowment. Funds from this endowment made it possible to bring Professor Hearne to campus, and resulted in a marvelous learning experience for a student – the magic the Library exists to make possible.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Special Olympics Michigan and CMU

[editor’s note: This evening, University of Illinois Professor Emeritus Elizabeth “Betsy” Hearne will be presenting "Children's Books, Oral Lore, and the Playful Imagination.” This is the inaugural David M. and Eunice Sutherland Burgess lecture. The program begins at 7:00 pm in the Park Library Auditorium with a reception in the Clarke to follow. Please see this link for more information about the Clarke Historical Library Speaker Series.] 

Special Olympics Michigan and CMU

by Lindsay Gabriel and Bryan Whitledge

This month is the 40th anniversary of Special Olympics Michigan having its headquarters on the Central campus. In addition, October is Disability Awareness Month and this is the perfect time to reflect on the four-decades-long relationship between Special Olympics and the University.

After a long personal history of advocacy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics in 1968. Since then, Special Olympics has blossomed and today there are more than 3.7 million athletes from over 170 countries around the World. In Michigan, CMU was selected in October of 1972 to become the home of Special Olympics Michigan, the state-specific Special Olympics program. The CMU community immediately embraced the opportunities presented by having Special Olympics as a member of the community. For the first State Games held at CMU in June of 1973, 1,600 athletes participated and more than 200 individuals volunteered, many of them CMU students.

Soon after this inaugural statewide effort, CMU was invited to enter a bid for hosting the world games – the only university invited to do so for these games. Shortly after the 1974 state games in June, which saw even more participation and a greater volunteer effort, CMU was named as the site of the 1975 International Special Olympics (the three previous sites were Chicago, 1968, 1970; and Los Angeles, 1972).

Ever since the first competition in 1973, thousands of Michigan athletes with disabilities make their way to Mount Pleasant every year to participate in the Special Olympic State Games. Many of the documents about Special Olympics and CMU are part of the archives maintained by the Clarke Historical Library. Newspapers, administrative reports, photographs, correspondence, and memoranda relating to the founding of Special Olympics Michigan, the landmark Fourth International Special Olympics Summer Games, and the ongoing activities of Special Olympics Michigan can all be found in the Clarke. The Clarke Historical Library takes great pleasure in sharing with you the rich history of disability awareness at CMU.

If you are interested in this history, the Clarke Historical Library will be one of many organizations participating in the disABILTY Awareness Expo. The event will be held in the Education and Human Services Buildings this Saturday (October 13) from 10 am to 2 pm. Throughout the month of October, CMU has many events planned. A full list of events is available here via this link (this link is for a PDF).

Friday, October 5, 2012

Spanning the Great Lakes

by Bryan Whitledge

Up until the 20th Century, the primary way to traverse the major water crossings in Michigan –the Detroit River, the St. Clair River, the Mackinac Straits, and the St. Marys River – was via water-faring vessels, particularly ferries. The technological advances of the 19th Century associated with the Industrial Revolution brought about the possibility to cross these waterways via bridges and tunnels. The opening of the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario in 1910, followed by the Ambassador Bridge in 1929, made getting across the water a simpler and cheaper endeavor than before.

But creating spans across great water in Michigan has not come without controversy. As far back as the 1870s there was talk of either digging a tunnel or erecting a double draw bridge from Detroit to Windsor. In an April 1874 document, Bridge or No Bridge: Address to Citizens at the Meeting called by the Committee appointed by the Board of Trade, proponents of the bridge cited the need for an expedited crossing mechanism to aid the railroad industry and establish Detroit as a hub of rail travel rather than a spur. These proponents noted that plans for a tunnel had been drafted and a small pilot tunnel had been started, but it failed and the high cost made it impractical until better technology would come along.

According to this document, those against the crossing were afraid that such a structure would disrupt vessel traffic on the Detroit River. The anti-bridge group also felt that the effectiveness of the ferry system was good enough to preclude the construction of a bridge at Detroit. No bridge was built in 1874, but the rise of automobile traffic and the desire for an expedited crossing led to the construction of a span that opened in 1929.

Another controversial span was the Mackinac Bridge. Today, the Mighty Mac is a distinctive symbol of Michigan, however, there were some Michiganders vehemently opposed to it in the early days. As told by Lawrence Rubin in Bridging the Straits, erecting a bridge at the Straits had been a dream since the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in the 19th Century. In the 1950s, when technology and perceived needs caught up to the dream, the idea of the Mackinac Bridge came to fruition. The major controversy surrounding the Bridge was funding. The State Treasurer, D. Hale Brake, was not as enthusiastic about the Bridge as others and he certainly did not want to see it be a “financial burden to the people of Michigan.” He and some of his colleagues from the legislature worked to introduce legislation making the sale of bonds to finance the span difficult. In fact, State Senator Haskell Nichols petitioned the state Supreme Court regarding the legality of the bond and even demanded a referendum be given to the people of Michigan regarding the Bridge. The efforts to block the Mackinac Bridge in the Winter of 1953-54 ultimately failed and the link between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas was open for traffic in 1957.

Today, we take for granted the ease of travel to and from our peninsulas. But these spans have not come easy. The materials documenting the history of these controversial projects as well as materials that document a variety of public works projects across the State of  Michigan can be found at the Clarke Historical Library.